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Parasite

Earlier this year, the South Korean film ‘Parasite’ scooped the pool at the Academy Awards including nabbing the Best Picture Oscar. It’s easy seeing why as its themes of social inequality and wealth disparity are universally known issues. Having given a different slant to the sci-fi genre with ‘Snowpiercer’, director Bong Joon-ho crafts an interesting comedy drama most can relate to.

The Kims are a family of four living in a small basement apartment. Struggling to make ends meet via dead end jobs, they continually dream of better things. When the chance arises to con their way into becoming servants for the wealthy Parks family, they take it. Quickly the Kims’ fortunes chart fresh waters and their lives improve. When their con is about to potentially be exposed, things go awry as they try desperately to cling onto their new life.

Like any good film, ‘Parasite’ has an abundance of interesting themes amidst an arresting script. The ‘parasite’ title could relate to how money lures the Kims into their actions or it could mean how the rich view those on the lower rung of society. These are expertly interwoven into the narrative with Bong Joon-ho’s direction teasing out the humour and tension in equal measures.

As with ‘Snowpiercer’, ‘Parasite’ is a character driven story full of unexpected twists. It makes a virtue of being unpredictable with a dog eat dog mentality between rich and poor starkly seen. There are no true heroes or villains but you understand viewpoints for all sides making for a consistently fascinating viewing experience.

‘Parasite’ is a solid work from an accomplished director. Now he’s won multiple awards for this, it will be interesting seeing where Bong Joon-ho goes next. If he shakes Hollywood out of its apathy that would be a good thing and would make his impoverished ‘Parasite’ characters proud.

Rating out of 10: 8

CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON DVD/BLU-RAY and COMING TO STREAMING SERVICES SOON

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Since their 1985 breakout movie ‘Blood Simple’, the Coen Brothers have made several memorable films. ‘Fargo’, ‘The Big Lebowski’ and ‘No Country for Old Men’ are just a few having made a huge impact. Their unique blending of humour, drama and mystery stood them apart from others. ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ is their latest genre love-letter with its ode to Westerns filled with their quirky but captivating style.

The Old West has seen a litany of sordid actions. Such events are seen in six separate incidents. Amongst those involved are singing gunslinger Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), a bank-robbing cowboy (James Franco) and an old prospector (Tom Waits). This motley crew reveal the underbelly of the Wild West among the dusty, desert-strewn streets.

One thing you can say about the Coen Brothers is that they’re genuine originals. ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the stories it offers represents a decent glimpse of the old West. Deception, bravery, tragedy and desperation are all starkly revealed. Some stories are longer than others although each has their own flavour making them stand out.

The performances across the board make ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ a continually absorbing experience. The Coen Brothers’ ability to wring as much as possible from their locales adds to the overall enjoyment. The cinematography is excellent, highlighting the harshness and beauty of the West in all its facets.

Whilst it may occasionally be slow, ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ is worth investing in. A Coen Brothers movie rarely disappoints as they know how to build a cohesive and interesting narrative. Their films are always ones to look forward to with their bravery in choosing offbeat subject matter not diminishing with time.

Rating out of 10: 7

CURRENTLY STREAMING ON NETFLIX